BLog: Pain Killer

BLog reviews recent boys love, yaoi and LGBTQ+ English translation manga.
+ occasionally non-Japanese media too

COVER_FINAL_MOCK_UP_largePain Killer
Story and art: HamletMachine
Publisher: Nightmare Land Press
Release Date: March 2020

(。ó﹏ò) Content Warning: discussion of sexual assault and various kinks, including mindbreak, noncon, dubcon, monster sex, insects, gangbangs, etc. (ó﹏ò。)

“This world… is overrun by beasts.”

Juan is a part of an elite team of all-male, skanky, sexy, slutty space warriors that travel to the surface of their barren world to do battle with the violent monstrosities that roam freely.

Juan and his fellow warriors are there to kill. And sometimes they get killed.

And sometimes they get fucked every which way ’til Tuesday.

Pain Killer comes from the deliciously twisted mind of HamletMachine, behind Starfighter, the archetypal kinky boys in space webcomic. (Aside: Some day I want to fund a study examining how much Starfighter influenced a certain segment of the Internet’s sexuality, it seems like such a reference point for so many people on porny fandom Twitter.) Hammy’s latest is a tour de force of kink and fetish, in fact they’re listed on the back like a nutritional label, and with good reason. Pain Killer is not for the faint of heart, but for long-time HamletMachine fans it will not disappoint.

The story itself is short and extremely graphic. Juan is ambushed while out killing monsters, first attacked and violated by small face hugger-type insectoids that seem to break his mind, then thoroughly used by large, creepy, masked, shiny, big-dicked humanoids that seem to be the main enemy of the humans. A later section sees Juan back in his subterranean human base, dealing with the after effects of being assaulted by the monsters, and how they might have changed him. HamletMachine writes in the back that “Pain Killer was created exclusively on Patreon from August ’18 – Feb ’20”, and the format of the collected comic follows that. Half of the book is the story itself, the rest is an art section, a gallery of perversion exploring different kinky configurations centred around Juan.

Pain Killer is like a marriage between yaoi manga and the pulpy, pin-up, old-style sexploitation comics–I’ve seen a lot on all sides of the sexual spectrum, but it especially reminds me of gay comic creators like Gengoroh Tagame, Zack or Tom of Finland, not to mention the universe of yaoi manga and fanart. Exaggerated, muscular, masculine himbos meant to be wanked over. It’s sort of like if the marines in Starship Troopers wore spandex thonged onesies and thigh-high pleather boots into battle. I would be the first in line to see Casper Van Dien fighting bugs in a thong; “Would you like to know more?” Yes, Federal Network. Yes, I would like to know more.

Whether being used and abused by alien monsters, creepy crawlies or his fellow humans, HamletMachine does not go easy on poor Juan. In true S&M fashion, though, the artist tackles the subject matter with the love and affection we’ve come to expect from HamletMachine for her characters. Violation is drawn lovingly, indulgently onto the page, you get the sense that Hammy’s enjoying drawing Juan getting spit-roasted by an enormous alien cock and the collared monster’s human overlord as much as we enjoy seeing it. I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring ideas around sexual assault, noncon and dubcon in BL/yaoi media… since it comes up time and time again. That’s one of the joys of going into a HamletMachine work, this is an unapologetic piece of kink and fetish art, that’s what we expect–nay, demand! Instead of weird, problematic, possibly accidental sexual politics creeping into the work the kink warning is upfront. With that in mind you can loose yourself in this poor boy getting just absolutely destroyed, instead of noncon and dubcon cropping up without warning and being upsetting, or causing narrative or thematic dissonance.

There is an argument about monstrosity, otherness and race that I’ll touch on only because it fascinates me–I also have the racial privilege of being a white settler-descendent engaging with these ideas. This will be nothing new to consumers of science fiction and fantasy. I think of the drow in Dungeons & Dragons, or the orcs of the Lord of the Rings film franchise–it’s still so fucking wild to me that the only speaking person of colour actor in that entire fucking series was a heavily-made up Lawrence Makoare as Lurtz the Uruk-hai villain who gets violently decapitated at the end of Fellowship.

Pain Killer‘s menacing, drooling, big-dicked monsters are, save their masks, a shiny, rubbery black, like walking, feral gimp suits. I don’t read the creatures as stand-ins for black men by any means, nor do I believe that’s the artist’s intention, but I think it’s fair to point out the signifiers in an argument about racial otherness. Black men’s bodies being seen as “other”, monstrous, predatory and hyper-sexualized is absolutely a real thing, and this all occurred to me even as I was reading Pain Killer and getting turned on by it. With that in mind, the story also has that age-old subversion of who, exactly, is the villain in the story–Juan doesn’t get it any easier from the humans. Who, in the end… are the real monsters… with sexy results!

The only other note for Pain Killer and as my own personal public service announcement to porny fandom Twitter, the only thing about this entire project that gave me pause, is a single acronym on the back cover, in the section outlining the kink/fetish themes: “ftm”

I am a vaguely cisgender guy so I don’t claim to speak for the trans community, I simply ask for alternatives. There are a couple of just delicious images of trans!Juan (I believe that’s how we’d format that caption on porny fandom Twitter), beautiful, sexy bits a’gaping and leaking with various fluids. I have just so much time for porny art that includes trans men, women and non-binary people (I can give you some recommendations if you’re at all interested) and reinterpreting beloved characters (I’m especially a big fan of trans!Spider-Man… FOR REASONS). That said, I am fundamentally opposed to trans identity getting lumped in as a kink or fetish. This is more of a semantic issue than anything, and I fully intend to put this book into the hands of at least three trans and nonbinary guys I know and love (maybe more, just try and stop me).

It is absolutely fair to give a content warning. Seeing depictions of certain bodies can be triggering to people who deal with gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia, I just don’t think “ftm” is the right term to do it–my understanding is that it’s an outdated term in the trans community as language in gender discourse evolves. That gives the sense that trans men are kinks, which they are not. Maybe an alternative like “depiction of trans-masculine bodies” or just “trans!Juan” would be better. Wordier, but it doesn’t hurt anyone.

I bring these criticisms up out of love, because I adore the weird space Pain Killer occupies, and I love living in that space with like-minded creators and consumers. Sex, sexuality, porn and art (and all their intersections) are messy, imperfect, hot, exploitative, loving, objectifying, liberating. What HamletMachine offers up in Pain Killer says a lot about why we, as sexual beings, love the idea of getting fucked to death by the monstrous. I see fucking the monstrous as liberating in the same way that dom-sub relationships or rape fantasies are; it’s about power and control, and giving up that control to be fulfilled in ways outside of restrictive norms. HamletMachine will have me as a devotee because I trust her to take me there, and in Pain Killer she does not disappoint.

Level of Problematic: Juan gets fucked by theories of otherness and outdated gender terminology; see paragraphs 10-12.

Level of Adorable: Juan gets fucked by adorable, mind-breaking face huggers; like, good God, I cannot even begin to describe how sexy-cute Juan is. If you’re a pervy freak like me, you might even find something in the art section that may surprise you with its titillation.

Level of Spiciness: Juan gets fucked by literally everything; Pain Killer is not only spicy, it’s like being force-fed a ghost pepper while being hung upside down strapped to a Saint Andrew’s Cross with Casper Van Dien in a spandex thonged onesie and thigh-high pleather boots face fucking you to Starship Troopers being projected onto a darkroom gangbang. The final frontier.

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